Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Why Atheism Should Be Taught In Religious Studies

Laurens
Laurens
Wed Dec 02, 2015 7:44 am by Laurens

This week we had news that secular views being left out of GSCE Religious Studies was a mistake. Of course this has got some conservative commentators backs up. Why should we teach non-religion in classes about religion? To answer that first we should ask why we are teaching children about religions in the first place. Clearly, or at least hopefully we don’t teach Religious Studies in order that children can decide which is the right one, or be told what to believe. We do it to encourage harmony and understanding. So we don’t remain ignorant and all become massive Islamophobes (although I’m not sure that is working out so well).

In light of this, it is very important to educate people about those who have no religion at all. To complete our set of understanding. No one is advocating that Religious Studies classes teach kids that God is imaginary, just that people are made aware of what atheists are all about and why. To neglect this is to leave people open to all sorts of nonsense that gets said about atheists by the religious. That atheists have no morals for example, or that atheists believe in nothing. The only way to counter such misinformation is to educate people. If Religious Studies has a purpose at all, it is to nurture understanding between faiths and beyond to the irreligious. Otherwise there is really no use in teaching it.

I also think that it should not be called Religious Studies, but rather Philosophy and Ethics or some more inclusive title. Again not to marginalize religion, but to encourage an understanding of world views that extend beyond religion and the broader context in which religions and philosophies interplay and relate to each other. Just teaching kids what each different religion believes is not truly insightful. It would serve us all well to learn about the cultural context in which these beliefs evolved. It doesn’t undermine belief in Christianity to learn about Jewish Messianism and the Roman occupation of Judea (and subsequent corruption or perceived corruption of the Jewish temple authorities), but it surely teaches us something about humanity, our history and how we cope with change. We would all do better if we were educated on all different kinds of Philosophies and their cultural and historical heritage, a vital part of that is those who have rejected religious belief in favour of a rational and empirical world view.

This is not a case of sneering liberals wanting to turn your children into God-hating communists. Its about giving the next generation the best possible understanding of what it is to be human, our struggles, and cultural heritage in the hope that it will iron out any prejudice and tribalism. Really, including atheism in Religious Studies should be the first in a step towards teaching a broader humanities subject. Not because we want to remove religion from your children’s lives, but because religion doesn’t have the monopoly on things humans believe and should therefore only comprise a part of their education on the subject.

UPDATE 04/12/2015 – It has been pointed out to me that I was perhaps unclear about my usage of the term atheism. To be clear I do refer to the wider definition that is probably better defined as Secular Humanism that simply atheism—which could apply to religions such as Buddhism. So whenever I use the term atheism in the context of it being taught as part of a Religious Studies syllabus, I mean Secular Humanist views, not just lack of belief in God.

The Quest for the Historical Jesus Part 1: Awkward Facts or Overambitious Tales?

Laurens
Laurens
Mon Nov 16, 2015 10:42 pm by Laurens

Several months ago, before I really cared that much about the issue I would have conceded that there more than likely was a historical figure behind Christianity. Recently though, in one of those YouTube suggested video clicking journeys I winded up on a talk by Richard Carrier* who rather eloquently put forth the argument that Jesus was a mythical figure who was later written into history (euhemerism). I originally dismissed this idea because the field is so fully of quackery and conspiracy (see Zeitgeist), but Carrier highlighted another more scholarly and well reasoned side of the movement. I am far from having made my mind up on the issue, and I have a lot of reading to do, but something about the question has piqued my interest and I wanted to share with you my findings on the quest for the historical Jesus as they arise and the conclusions that I draw from them in a series of blog posts on the subject.

 

If you were to have asked me previously why I thought that Jesus was a historical figure I would have probably paraphrased the argument that the late Christopher Hitchens made in God Is Not Great:

“[…] the jumbled “Old” Testament prophecies indicate that the Messiah will be born in the city of David, which seems indeed to have been Bethlehem. However, Jesus’s parents were apparently from Nazareth and if they had a child he was most probably delivered in that town. Thus a huge amount of fabrication—concerning Augustus, Herod, and Quirinius—is involved in confecting the census tale and moving the nativity scene to Bethlehem (where, by the way, no “stable” is ever mentioned). But why do this at all, since a much easier fabrication would have had him born in Bethlehem in the first place, without any needless to-do? The very attempts to bend and stretch the story may be inverse proof that someone of later significance was indeed born, so that in retrospect, and to fulfil the prophecies, the evidence had to be massaged to some extent.”

God Is Not Great page 114-115

This does at first glance seem rather convincing. Why on Earth would both Matthew and Luke go to great lengths to get Jesus of Nazareth to Bethlehem? A plausible explanation is that it was a response to criticism, that people looked at the scriptures and noted that if Jesus—a known Nazarene—was the Messiah he would have been born in Bethlehem not Nazareth. From this we can derive the conclusion that Jesus was a historical individual. For the interests of clarity I shall henceforth refer to this as the Nazarene argument. 

Before discussing this further let us establish some facts that pertain to this argument. With one fact in particular that impacts how we perceive the conclusion of the argument.

Matthew refers to a prophecy about Nazareth

Matthew 2:23 states:

 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.

 

Scholars are unsure as to which prophecy this refers

Though there are plausible contenders (of which one I shall posit is a likely explanation) there is no definitive agreement as to which (if any) prophecy the above verse refers.

Matthew mentions a prophecy with regards to Jesus being a Nazarene, but we have no idea to what he is referring, though there are some candidates. This is all we can legitimately say that we know with regards to the term being applied to Jesus in the notoriously unreliable Gospels. Although the term is used in Mark which pre-dates Matthew, Matthew is heavily derivative of Mark and it could be that Mark used to term assuming that the reader already knew the prophecy to which Matthew refers.

 

Let’s now look at hypotheses as to why Matthew refers to a prophecy about Nazareth in light of the fact that people can’t seem to agree on what he is referring to:

1. Matthew could simply be fraudulently claiming there to be a prophecy that did not exist.

This is plausible, but it is unlikely considering the motive ascribed by the Nazarene argument. If the author of Matthew was addressing criticism about a Messiah claim not fulfilling prophecy, this critique is likely to have been delivered by people who were aware of scripture and prophecy. Thus we are required to believe that Matthew boldly claimed there was a prophecy when his critics would easily have retorted that there wasn’t. If there was no prophecy and Matthew knew this, there is no motive for making it up (at least in the context of addressing a criticism) he might simply have said “he was born in Bethlehem as spoken by the prophets, then he lived in a town called Nazareth which is why he is known as a Nazarene.” I don’t think this completely rules out this possibility, Matthew may have been extremely bold, or fabricated it with a different motive. However, I find this an unconvincing hypothesis as any criticism would be sufficiently addressed by the narrative without a fabricated prophecy, if anything a fabricated prophecy would make his case weaker (if we assume that the Nazarene argument is true).

This hypothesis explains the lack of consensus as to where this supposed prophecy lies, but it ignores the complications associated with positing a fraudulent claim.

2. Matthew was referring to a known prophecy

As mentioned previously there are possible candidates for verses that were interpreted as a prophecy about Nazareth. He may have been referencing a line in Isaiah 11:1 which in English reads as:

“Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.”

In Hebrew the word for branch is ne-tzer . Hebrew, being a consonantal language—with vowels not being indicated in ancient text—it may have been possible to read this word in Greek as Nazarene. The significance of this being that the branch (Nazarene) was symbolic of being descended from Jesse, father of David. Indeed the prophecy was popular in the New Testament era, being referenced by both Romans 15:12 and Revelation 5:5. We also know that it was popular for Jews to look for hidden messages and prophecy in their texts in this manner, so it is not beyond question that at the time the author of Matthew was writing this passage in Isaiah was interpreted as a prophecy.

Given the aforementioned popularity of the Isaiah verse, and the propensity in Jewish culture to look in their texts for coded messages, I think that this is a very plausible candidate for the prophecy that Matthew was referring to. Not only does it hint at a geographical location, but it also hints towards a lineage that goes back to David, a double whammy that I can imagine would have been viewed as being significant.

I cannot see any other relevant reasons as to why Matthew would refer to a prophecy in the text, although I am open to suggestions in the comments, and will amend this article accordingly. I sincerely apologise if it seems that I am positing a false dilemma.

 

I would posit, given the facts that 1 is less likely that 2, but neither is entirely conclusive. Thus we are led to more than one possible outcome. Either the Nazarene argument is true and there was a historical Jesus and the Gospels contrive a story to fix fact with prophecy. Matthew either conveniently discovered that Jesus was actually from one of the places mentioned by the prophets (unlikely), or he fabricated a prophecy to make his case seem a bit more legit (plausible, but questionable). It is either that or Matthew was not drawing on a historical figure at all (or if he was the actual historical facts did not factor into the story), and was simply contriving a mythical story that would hit as many prophecies as possible. This is supported by the fact that Matthew has Jesus et al go to Egypt until Herod died (Matt 2:15) (to avoid a massacre that never happened) just to get another ding on the prophecy-o-meter. In fact the whole first couple of chapters in Matthew read very much in this fashion with prophecies being reeled off here there and everywhere.

In this instance I have to say that I changed my mind. I am no longer convinced that the Nazarene argument provides a convincing case for the historicity of Jesus. The idea of Nazarene being symbolic of a descendent of David and also interpreted as a reference to a Galilean town seems plausible to me. If the Gospels are allegorical myths, full of references to the Old Testament, this is exactly the kind of multi-layered reference we would expect to find.  This makes sense when you look at the parallels that Matthew so clearly makes to Exodus with the slaughter of the innocents in his nativity story. It works when you look at it like that. It might not make narrative sense, and it may seem highly contrived, but that’s kind of the point; it is.

On the other hand the Nazarene argument would have us believe that either Matthew fabricated a prophecy—when it didn’t make a great deal of sense to do so—to bolster the claim that it was totally fine for the Messiah to be from Nazareth and Bethlehem. Or Jesus was actually born in a town that happened to possibly be the subject of a multi-layered prophetic reference to his Davidic heritage and Matthew capitalized on this, but decided it wasn’t enough and wanted him to get to Bethlehem as well.  The latter seems highly improbable, and the former is plausible, but in my opinion doesn’t work as well because it raises questions as to what his motives for lying were.

 

I couldn’t say with certainty that this is evidence of a mythical Jesus, but I do not see it as evidence for a historical Jesus. It might be the case that the Gospels were heavily mythologised but there still was a figurehead behind it all—about whom very little in the gospels accurately portrays. It may also be the case that the Nazarene argument is true, but I believe it would require some corroborative evidence to back it up.

 

* Note: I apologize, but I forget the exact video that I saw, however I can recommend searching his name in YouTube as much of his talks cover the same topics and are all equally fascinating.

Misunderstandings about Atheism

Inferno
Inferno
Wed Nov 05, 2014 3:42 pm by Inferno

I recently saw an interview with David Mitchell. One topic discussed was his stance on religion. Here’s what he said:

1) Up until 0:30, it’s rather uninteresting: So he’s not an atheist, he’s an agnostic. I’d point out that he’s wrong, he’s an agnostic atheist, but that’s not a huge problem.

 

I’ve mentioned it a few times all over the forum, so I won’t go into it here, but “agnostic” is a qualifier about the position of God, it’s not a position in and of itself. You can be an agnostic about everything, aka. claiming that nothing is knowable, but you can’t purely be an agnostic about whether or not God exists: If your life does not include a God or gods, then you’re an atheist.

 

2) The first real problem I have is between 0:30-0:40. David says that he “wants there to be an all-powerful, benevolent God”. That’s fine, lots of atheists want that. In fact, I’ll use two definitions now:

An atheist is a person whose world view does not contain a God or gods.

An anti-theist is a person whose world view does not contain a God or gods, sees both organized religion (i.e. churches) and religion itself (i.e. the belief in a God) as something detrimental. Such a person would not like for there to be a God.

 

Christopher Hitchens famously said:

Such a person [an atheist] might very well say that he wished it were true [the existence of a god]. I know some atheists who say, ‘Well, I wish I could believe it. I just can’t. There’s not enough evidence for it’ … I say I’m an anti-theist because I think it’d be rather awful if it was true … you would never have a waking or sleeping moment where you weren’t being watched, and controlled, and supervised by some celestial entity from conception until, well, not even until your death because it’s only after death when the real fun begins, isn’t it? It’d be like living in North Korea.”

This is what I understand anti-theism to be: Absolute opposition to both organized religion and the hope of an afterlife. I’ll be absolutely clear: I agree with Christopher Hitchens that any god yet proposed* would be ghastly and I seriously hope that there is no god.

 

*That needs extra clarification as well: The gods of ancient Greece do not count as gods in this context. They are basically humans with super-powers, not gods. If they do count as gods, then I’d have no problem with them, they’re awesome.
What I do have a problem with is the bogus claim that a god can be both all-powerful and all-loving and that there can be a heaven.

3) The next problem I have is between 0:45-1:01.

David says that there are, and I have to be fair here, “some atheists” who want to tear the comfort of religion away from people. While it may be true that there are some people who want to do that, that’s not the position of the vast majority of atheists. Or anti-theists, for that matter.

Instead, most atheists I have talked with are perfectly happy to let people pray in their own homes or even in churches as long as religious stupidity (genital mutilation, fanaticism, religiously motivated killings, opposition to homosexual marriage, etc.) stays within the confines of their own homes or even churches. Another famous Christopher Hitchens quote goes as follows: “What about the most important minority in the history of the world? … We have to be insulted and outraged every day by what we see and what we read. By slaughter and murder. Slaughter and murder and barbarism and insult and superstitious nonsense.”

If religion and the insanity associated with religion wasn’t shoved down our collective throats, I think few people would have a problem with religion. As it stands however, I see it as my duty to stand up to it.

 

4) The last problem I have is between 1:25-1:35. David says (roughly) that “the idea that you take away one of the excuses, that the killing will suddenly stop happening is absurd.”

Quite right, that is an absurd proposition. That’s why I’ve never seen anyone make it. There is one argument put forward by Christopher Hitchens that there would have been peace long ago in Northern Ireland if there had been no religion, but I think that’s wrong. There certainly might have been a better chance, but I think the struggle would have been largely political instead of largely religious.

However, things like 9/11 would undoubtedly never have happened. If not for the crazy idea that you get rewarded for your death in an afterlife, nobody would have strapped a bomb to themselves and blown themselves up. It’s ridiculous.

Much of the opposition against evolution would be gone, a good deal of anti-science would simply vanish. Genital mutilation would be gone almost entirely. Abortion clinics would be largely safe. And so on and so forth. A lot would definitely change and the way David explains it is a simple misrepresentation.

I hope this clears up some of the misunderstandings about what atheism is and what atheists believe. There will be, I hope, a fair amount of discussion on this issue.
Some people may disagree with the distinction of atheism and anti-theism, nor atheism and agnosticism.
Some people may disagree with the notion that a god is by definition a bad thing.
Some people may disagree that religion interferes too much.
Some people may disagree that the things I listed under 4) will go away if religion were to disappear.

Ah well…

Creationism – Cargo Cult Science

Inferno
Inferno
Thu Aug 22, 2013 4:23 pm by Inferno

In a Caltech-address given in 1974, Richard Feynman coined the term “Cargo Cult Science” to describe any group of scientists who follow the external traits of being a scientist (like wearing lab coats and saying “Deoxyribonucleic acid”) but who don’t follow the rigorous scientific method (like trying not to fool yourself and publishing in the peer-reviewed literature).

There are quite a few stories about how creationism is cargo cult science. For example, the story about the Discovery Institute using a stock photo of a lab to gain scientific credibility. Or take the Creation Science Museum. Those are all good examples of cargo cult science. They follow some external traits (having a laboratory, having a museum) but none of the rigorous scientific method.

I’ll introduce you to another aspect: Peer review. A few of you will be familiar with the Discovery Institute’s list of ID peer reviewed articles. They count 50 articles in seven years (2004-2011) a lot, a “boom” even. Wow, impressive.

Some of you will know the Answers in Genesis research journal. I wrote about an article of theirs a while back, calling their article one of the “most dishonest creationist “research paper”“. They’ve got another article up, one I’ll look at in due time.

A third attempt by creationists to get peer reviewed is CreationWiki’s attempt at peer review. “No articles submitted” should tell you something. Why hilarious? Because of this quote by Chris Ashcraft: “That is the goal of peer reviews in general – to uphold the consensus position. Peer reviews are just what the phrase describes – reviews by peers. Atheists and creationists are not peers regarding theories formed from these worldviews. Only creationists can provide peer reviews of creationist views.”

There are also several others out there attempting to do the same, but we shan’t worry about them for the time being. (Nor ever, as far as I’m concerned.)

Why is peer review so important for creationists? Well, proponents of evolution (hereafter called “scientists”) have often told creationists to “put up or shut up“: Either produce peer-reviewed evidence positively indicative of magical creation or get out of our schools.

Creationists now had two options: To either try and get their articles passed through proper channels or create their own journals. The first option failed horribly so they went for number two.

In very clear terms: If creationists are unable to produce peer-reviewed articles, they will not be regarded as science. Or so they think. The problem, of course, lies not with the publications, that is to say whether there are any published or not. Nor, as Casey Luskin claims, with the quantity of the research. It lies solely with the truth and evidence of the publications. Creationists could have published only a single article and, if it were correct, that would sufficiently throw any theory into doubt. Yet creationists don’t have that silver bullet, nor do they have anything else of value. They could have millions of articles out there and still not convince anyone, simply because their articles (as I showed) are full of crap.

Creationists don’t agree, of course, and rectified their problem (not getting published enough) by simply making up their own journals. Pretty awesome logic, right? Read the link, it’s rife with hilarity. First the author suggests that peer review is ineffective anyway, then he goes on to casually mention “therefore we’ve got our own journals”. Yeah, good on ya.

Anyway, back on topic. What makes this “cargo cult science”? Well, look again at the AiG journal. Doesn’t it remind you of some other journal? I think it looks a lot like a mix between the design from Nature and Science. (I seem to remember there’s another journal that looks even more like AiG’s but I can neither find it nor claim with certainty that I’m correct on that one.) That could be a coincidence, right?

Well, consider the fact that trueorigins looks identical to talkorigins and you might not feel like it’s that much of a coincidence any more.

In conclusion:
Creationists and ID-folk alike use fancy look-alike pages to make their audience think they’re real scientists. They use “big words” (Beta-Globin Pseudogene yadda yadda) and write articles hat look like real scientific articles, so much even that one of their articles slipped into a journal some years ago. They have editors, rules for submission, peer reviewers… everything a real journal has. Except for one thing: Evidence-based articles.

/a

Rebuttal to Ian Juby’s “’In 7 Days’ Crash Course in Creation” Day 7

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Mon Jun 10, 2013 9:19 pm by he_who_is_nobody

Read part onepart twopart threepart fourpart five, and part six.

Day 7:  What would Jesus believe?

 

In this lesson, Juby spends the majority of his time proselytizing for Jesus. I frankly do not care about the claims of Christianity (or any religion for that matter). I was not sure if it was worth my time to make a post for this lesson because there is so little creationist content in it. However, I pressed forward to have a complete rebuttal to all his creationist nonsense.

The whole crux of the creation/evolution debate boils down to consequences: If there is no God, then there is no such thing as sin, there is no eternity, and no judgment.  The core of the origins debate is not so much science, but rather free will and a deep-seated, natural rebellion and resentment towards our creator God.  I freely admit that until I got to know this Creator personally, I too struggled with resentment towards this God.

After this very brief tour of some of the evidence pertaining to the debate, we now reach this crux of the matter head-on.

 

First off, Juby is wrong to claim that the crux of the Origins Debate boils down to consequences, it boils down to having accurate science taught in schools. Juby is essentially making a version of the First Foundational Falsehood of Creationism. However, the difference is that Juby is claiming that one cannot be a Christian and still accept evolution. Juby does not come out and say that evolution is inherently atheistic. Second, Juby can speak for himself. As an atheist, I know that I do not have any resentment towards any of the deities that have been created by humans over the eons. Furthermore, if there were such a thing as a god(s), it would do nothing to disprove evolution, as we know it.

Juby than spends a lot of time discussing C. S. Lewis and explaining what his thought about Jesus and the bible. What point does this have to do with creation?

Death before sin?

Another significant point in trying to cram evolution into the scriptures is that death, disease and survival of the fittest are crucial to the evolutionary process.  Mutations (disease, sickness) are the driving force behind the supposed changes needed by evolution.  Death is supposed to have happened for hundreds of millions of years before people evolved, according to evolutionary theory.  Yet in Genesis, we read that death, diseases, thorns, etc., are the result of Adam and Eve’s sin.

 

Once again, Juby is wrong, mutations are not the driving force of evolution; natural and sexual selection are. However, I would like Juby to explain how our fellow animals and we were able to survive in Eden if we were not able to eat from this garden. Juby never says it in his crash course, but he believes that all animals on earth were vegetarians before the expulsion from Eden (and perhaps up until the flood). When one eats and digests food, one is killing the plant matter.

Furthermore, it would also be nice for Juby to explain where he thinks diseases and thorns came from? Did they just spontaneously generate after the expulsion from Eden or does he think they evolved (he would not call it that) from preexisting creatures into what they are now.

If evolution was happening for millions of years leading up to Adam and Eve, then you have death before the sin of Adam and Eve, and the Genesis account is null and void.  Furthermore, Christ died to redeem man from the sin of Adam and Eve.  If death was going on before Adam and Eve, and it was a tool God used to produce the diversity of life on earth, then how could God say it was all “good” throughout the days of Creation, (Gen 1:4,10,12,18,21,25, & 31) while simultaneously referring to death as wicked, evil, and an enemy?  (Deut 31:15,Ezek 33:1,1 Cor 15:26)

 

I am including this section because I want to know what everyone thinks about it. Has Ian Juby created a great argument against Christianity from a modern scientific standpoint? Has Juby just destroyed his own faith?

Juby goes on to echo this point throughout the rest of this lesson, but I do not think it is worth quoting here. It appears to me that Juby has set up a huge failure for himself. We know that evolution and deep time are facts and that universal common descent is abundantly obvious. Once any creationist that has actually read this crash course is exposed to real science, it appears to me, that they might have a higher chance of losing their faith.

I point this out because I am an atheist, but my understanding of evolutionary theory and deep time had no bearing on that. For most of my youth, I was a Christian, but never a creationist (I was in the sense that I thought god was behind everything). Juby has made it abundantly clear in this lesson that either the bible is literally true or there is no Christian god (the Second Foundational Falsehood of Creationism). Thus, once a student of Juby enters college and is actually exposed to real science, they have a much higher chance of leaving Christianity behind, because Juby has stapled creationism to that faith.

Fine by me.

That’s all folks!
Thank you for subscribing to the “In 7 Days crash course in creation.” I hope that you have enjoyed it.

 

I have enjoyed this. I actually thought it was going to be much harder to debunk most of Juby’s tripe, but it was surprisingly easy. That makes sense because creationists very rarely get any new arguments. Juby’s lesson three is a great example of a creationist hoarding debunked arguments.

Unless you want to receive an occasional update about these lessons (which will be almost never), use the link down below to UNSUBSCRIBE from the course.

 

I wonder how much updating Juby will be performing after he reads these blogs. I am going to stay subscribed, because I would love to read his updates and if they are more of the tripe he has put forth thus far, I will make more posts about it.

Well, I hope everyone enjoyed reading this. I know I enjoyed writing it.

Have a nice day. :)

 

Rebuttal to Ian Juby’s “’In 7 Days’ Crash Course in Creation” Day 6

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Sun Jun 02, 2013 8:01 am by he_who_is_nobody

Read part one, part two, part three, part four, and part five.

Day 6:  Nothing changes…

Often I have had skeptics say “You keep arguing against evolution – what are your arguments for creation?”

 

This is a very fair and open question; because creationists seem to believe (as Juby goes on to demonstrate); there is a dichotomy when it comes to the Origins Debate. It appears that all creationists believe that they simply have to disprove evolution in order to prove creationism. However, this is not the case, creationism (young earth creationism especially) has been disproved for the last 200 years. Thus, proving evolution wrong will not make creationism true.

While this is a fair question, something does need to be clarified before proceeding:
The scientific method is one based upon falsification.  In other words, you cannot really “prove” anything – you can only “disprove” something.  Furthermore, creation and evolution really do rule out all other possible models.  For example, suggesting that aliens transplanted us here on earth (and thus answering the question “where did we come from?”) does not answer the question “From whence did we come?” It is actually intellectual cop-out – it only brings up the question “Where did the aliens come from?”

 

Juby makes this statement without realizing the irony of what he has just done. One only needs to change a few words and Juby has virtually made a great case against his position.

For example, suggesting that a god(s) magically created us here on earth (and thus answering the question “where did we come from?”) does not answer the question “From whence did we come?” It is actually intellectual cop-out – it only brings up the question “Where did this god(s) come from?”

Tada, Juby has just explained why creationism fails.

It all boils down to creation, or evolution.  Either we were created by supernatural processes, or we evolved by supernatural processes.

 

Again, here we have Juby admitting that creationism is nothing more than magic while at the same time projecting that fault onto evolution and science in general. There is nothing supernatural about evolution and evolutionary theory. We have evidence in the way of genetics, fossils, etc… Juby’s shameless projection will do nothing to diminish these facts. Furthermore, it does not boil down to creation or evolution, no matter how much Juby wants to set up that false dichotomy. Evolution is the only explanation for the diversity of life on earth, while creationism has never been anything more than belief in magic, as Juby so readily points out.

One example of evidence for creation comes from my good friend, John Mackay (http://creationresearch.net).  As he points out, ten times in the first chapter of Genesis it says God created things to reproduce after their kind.  Evolution requires things to change over time, and so we thus have another scientific test to apply to the creation/evolution debate.

 

Before Juby could move on from this, he would have to define kind in a scientific context. I have blogged about this idea earlier and pointed out that as soon as a creationist defines kind they have lost; because it is effortless to show evidence that all species of animals share a common ancestor. Thus, Juby (and Mackay) have given us away to falsify creationism in their own words.

Stasis in the fossil record:
“Stasis” is a huge problem for evolution.  “Stasis” simply means that things stay the same – for example, on the right is a cast (in the collection of the Creation Science Museum of Canada) of a fossil garfish.  How do we know it’s a garfish?  Because they are still around today, and they have stayed the same.

This fossil fish is supposedly 100 million years old by evolutionary standards.  Fossil garfish have evolved into….. garfish.

Instead of being evidence for evolution, this is evidence that garfish have faithfully reproduced after their kind.

 

Stasis is not a huge problem for modern evolution. It might have been a problem for early ideas of universal gradualism, but we now know that stasis is a normal part of life on earth. Think about this, evolution only happens when there is need for change (e.g. changes in climate). If the climate an organism lives in changes very little over geologic time, the organisms found in said environment would also change very little.

However, even with that said, there are still build-ups of neutral mutations that will change an organism ever so slightly over the eons. Thus, the fossil garfish Juby shows a picture of (and this is true for all the examples Juby gives) is not the same species as the modern version. So, depending on how Juby would define kind this example (and all others provided) could be examples of kinds changing over time.

On the right you see another excellent example of a fossil horseshoe crab.  Beside it is a modern one.  Again, 100 million years of supposed evolution has turned horseshoe crabs into…. horseshoe crabs.

In fact in early 2008, a fossil horseshoe crab was found in Manitoba, Canada, dated at over 400 million years old.  How did they know it was a horseshoe crab?  Cause it looks like one.  400 million years of evolution has changed nothing.

 

Juby throws out the term “horseshoe crab” as if it were a species level designation; it is not. Horseshoe crab (Limulidea) is a family level classification that holds three living genera and one extinct genus.

Furthermore, Juby exposes how little he knows about taxonomy by acting as if Limulidea were a species level designation. In fact, this whole lesson is an example of how little Juby knows about taxonomy, cladistics, and basic biology. To make an analogy, Juby is saying they found a species of cat (Felidae) that dates back to 16 million years ago. How did they know it was a cat? Because, it looks like one. The traits that make a Limulidea a Limulidea (or a cat a cat) are the traits used by scientists in order to classify them in relation to other organisms. This includes species as diverse and different as house cats, lions, and extinct species such as Smilodons.

This fossil fish (part of the CSMC collection) is from the Green River formation – supposedly 50 million years old.  This is a fossil herring.  Commonly called “Knightia,” wikipedia claims it has become extinct.  Compare the photos yourself – the one on the right, to the wikipedia photo of a herring:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Herringadultkils.jpg

Unfortunately, it is confusion in the latin names that has caused some evolutionists to become convinced that evolution has happened.  Knightia is not even the same genus as the herring (Genus Clupea).  In fact, as Vance Nelson has pointed out, often the only evolution in an organism is in its latin name!  In other words, the modern, living version of a fossil organism is often classed in a completely different genera than the fossil, giving the appearance of having major differences when there isn’t any.

 

Juby is asking his non-scientific audience to compare a fossil skeleton to a living fleshed out fish. You have to be kidding me.

Juby has already exposed that he knows nothing about human anatomy (let alone any other animal’s anatomy), so what makes anyone think he is qualified to question the classification of any organism. Furthermore, based on the they look the same argument I am sure Juby would argue that mammoths, mastodons, and modern elephants were the same animal.

Usually I don’t need to tell people what the fossil on the right is (courtesy of the Big Valley Creation Science Museum).  It’s a dragonfly – and there is a photograph of a modern counterpart.  Dragonflies have evolved into dragonflies.

This example falls under all the arguments I have made thus far (Juby’s ignorance of anatomy, cladistics, misunderstanding of stasis, and thinking dragonfly is a species level designation). The only main difference is that dragonfly (Anisoptera) is considered a suborder classification, even worse than his Limulidea example.

 

Nothing has changed – this is powerful evidence for creation, and thoroughly refutes evolution which requires changes over time en par with a frog turning into a prince – only evolution requires a second frog turning into a princess at precisely the same time and place.

 

First off, this is not evidence of creationism at all. It is only evidence of Juby’s basic ignorance (or blatant misrepresentation) of taxonomy. In addition, Juby goes on to straw man evolution by comparing it to a fairy tale, which again is an example of him projecting the faults of creationism onto evolution. He further goes on to expose just how little he actually knows about evolution (or another blatant misrepresentation) by stating “evolution requires a second frog turning into a princess at precisely the same time and place.” Obviously, Juby does not know that evolution happens to populations and not individuals, thus stating something this ignorant is inexcusable for someone who claims to have studied the Origins Debate for as long as Juby claims.

One of the classic examples of a “living fossil” is the Coelacanth (pronounced See-la-canth).  Once thought to be a precursor to the fish that walked onto land (in the evolutionary belief system), it was also believed to have been extinct for some 70 million years (i.e., went extinct the same time as the dinosaurs).

Then one was caught alive in the 1930’s.  Schools of them have been found since.  This was akin to finding a Stegosaurus in your back yard!
The coelacanth first appears in the fossil record some 450 million years ago, and has remained essentially unchanged.
(Photo courtesy of Max Planck institute, click here to see the Chicago field museum’s page on the coelacanth.)

 

First off, the photo he used was too large to be included in this blog and I will not be bothered to look for another one (everyone already knows what the fish looks like). Second, since this is, as Juby points out, the classic example of a living fossil for creationists, I will repeat myself and explain the mistakes Juby is making when it comes to the Coelacanth.

The first mistake is that Juby acts as if Coelacanth (Coelacanthiforme) is a species level designation. Coelacanthiforme is an order classification with several species found within it. Coelacanthiformes were never thought to be a precursor for tetrapods, but a very close relative of the first tetrapod lineage.

Juby is correct that finding a living Coelacanthiforme was akin to finding living Stegosaurs, but not for the reasons he thinks. Essentially, this animal was only known from fossils and because of that, we thought it went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous. Finding a living version was a surprise, but did nothing to shake up our ideas of evolution; it only shook up our ideas of the fossil record, just like finding a living non-avian dinosaur would not shake up our ideas of evolution, only our ideas of the fossil record.

Furthermore, the species of Coelacanthiforme alive today (Latimeria) is not found in the fossil record. The last example of Coelacanthiforme found in the fossil record was Macropoma, a shallow sea version of Coelacanthiforme. Latimeria are deep-water fish and could be the reason why their fossils have never been found.

Now some anti-creationists will contend that there are changes in these organisms.  When one examines the claims closely, one finds the claim is primarily speculation, i.e., the internal organs of the coelacanth are assumed to have changed over time (see my commentary on the NOVA Coelacanth program and why the coelacanth is not evidence for evolution).  The few minor variations we do see are still well within variation within the species.

 

We can see evidence of evolution from the first Coelacanthiforme, Litoptychius, found in the Devonian all the way through Macropoma the last Coelacanthiforme found in the fossil record. Second, as I pointed out Macropoma was a shallow sea fish and there are many species of Coelacanthiforme that were fresh water fish as well. That alone would be a major change in their anatomy; something Juby probably would not understand because he thinks all fish would have survived the flood. Juby would not understand that salt-water fish and fresh water fish have different ways of coping with their environment. Furthermore, Litoptychius is a deep-water fish, and in order for it to survive at the water pressure it does, means major anatomical differences from any of the fossil versions we have. Again, I doubt Juby would understand this. He believes animals can move well being incased in mud.

Yet many anti-creationists try and focus on differences that are minute compared to the variations within dogs – and claim that this is somehow evidence for evolution.  No, coelacanths have “evolved” into coelacanths.  This is powerful evidence for creation, and powerful evidence against evolution.

 

Living in fresh water, shallow sea, and deep sea are not tiny differences. Furthermore, stating that the variation between breeds of dogs is greater than the variation it would take to live in three completely different environments is just asinine and once again exposes how little Juby understand biology.

So many living fossils, so little time…
There are far, far more examples of living fossils around today.  See part 10 of “The Complete Creation” video encyclopedia, still viewable for free on my website:
http://ianjuby.org/videos.html

 

That simply means there are far, far more examples for Juby to misrepresent and display his utter lack of knowledge about taxonomy, cladistics, and basic biology. Stasis is very well understood in evolutionary theory. Punctuated equilibrium explains the stasis we see in the fossil record. Nevertheless, for every example of stasis Juby could find, I could find an even more dramatic example of transition. From horses to whales, and even in our lineage, we have great examples of transitional life forms.

Coming up in the next lesson:
What would Jesus believe?

 

Rebuttal to Ian Juby’s “’In 7 Days’ Crash Course in Creation” Day 5

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Mon May 27, 2013 8:15 pm by he_who_is_nobody

Read part one, part two, part three, and, part four.

Day 5:  Dinosaur Egg Nests: An argument against a global flood?

I’ve had numerous skeptics try to use dinosaur egg nests as an argument for an old earth, and to counter the claim that the rock layers we see around the world were formed by Noah’s flood.  After all, if those layers were made by Noah’s flood, how did the dinosaurs lay nests on the bottom of this raging, world-wide ocean?

 

I have actually never heard this argument made against creationism, but it is a good one. Truly think about a flood and how destructive they are, even a small-scale one. Does anyone truly believe that a nest of eggs would be preserved during a flood of any scale?

Such comments betray a lack of knowledge of what the Bible says, and what Noah’s flood would accomplish, how, and when.  The Bible indicates that Noah’s ark did not float until the 40th day after the start of the flood – that’s almost a month and a half! (Genesis 7:17)  During the flood of Noah, tides would still be in effect – in fact, they would be enhanced as more and more of the land becomes submerged, and thus resistance to the tides become less and less.

Thus, every twelve hours, you have a tide flowing inland, laying down a new layer, and then flowing out during low tide.  Because the waters of the flood are continually rising, the next tide that comes in will be higher than the last, and so it lays down another layer.  During low tides, dinosaurs, people, and other animals will go out onto these new tidal flats as they forage for food or try to get to higher land.  Footprints are made during this time, which harden into rock and become fossil footprints.

Dinosaurs carrying their eggs during this time ( a period of weeks at least) are going to do one of two things: They are either going to ditch the eggs, or try to lay a nest.

 

I will not argue against a global flood having larger tides, and I will just accept his premise. This leads to an experiment that Juby can perform in order to verify his hypothesis. Juby could take eggs from various species of birds and other reptiles today, place them in mock nests in a tidal zone and record the experiment. He can see whether the force of the tides bury the nests or destroy the nests and move the eggs to different areas. Since Juby believes that the tides would become larger and larger as the flood went on he can also try this experiment in different locations (e.g. Minas Basin, in Nova Scotia) in order to truly test his hypothesis.

Now, Juby travels around the U.S. and Canada with his traveling creationist museum. During his travels, he could stop at different coastal cities and perform his experiment in order to verify the claims he is making. The fact that Juby has not already done this speaks volumes about how much stock he actually holds in his hypothesis. On the other hand, Juby is a creationist; they never perform experiments to test their hypotheses.

Furthermore, Juby alludes to the tides during this worldwide flood creating different sedimentary layers, thus accounting for the geologic column we see today. This is a very sophomoric look at sedimentation and does not account for major features found in the geologic column (i.e. angular unconformities, lava flows, eolian sandstone, and shale; just to name a few). Additionally, flooding would sort sediment by grain size and in many places in the geologic column; this is simply not the case.

On the right is a reconstruction of an Oviraptor egg nest.  Most dinosaur eggs are found in a disordered state, not an ordered one like this.  We will focus on the “ordered” nests here.
This nest would be a text-book example.  The Oviraptor apparently stood in the middle of the circle, and apparently laid eggs in pairs, toward the outside.  It would then rotate, lay another two eggs, rotate, lay another two eggs, etc… It would then sometimes lay a second level on top of the first circle, and sometimes a third level.

 

Juby claims that Oviraptors laid eggs in pairs yet cites no evidence to support this claim. Based on birds and crocodilians (the closest living relatives to dinosaurs), I highly doubt that Oviraptors would have laid their eggs in pairs. Nevertheless, I digress, where is Juby going with this?

Oviraptor was originally so named because it was found associated with some dinosaur eggs.  The evolutionary assumptions of “Survival of the fittest” and “there has been no global catastrophe” led to the conclusion that it was stealing the eggs for food.  This led to the name Ovi-raptor; ovi for egg, raptor for thief.

Later on however, an identical egg was found with an embryo still inside of it.  As it turns out, these were Oviraptor eggs!  It wasn’t stealing the eggs for food – it was the mother trying to protect the nest from whatever catastrophe buried it and the eggs together!

 

There is just so much wrong in this, it is hard to know where to start. First, there have been several mass extinctions in earths passed, and paleontologists have often speculated about some sort of global catastrophe behind all of them. Juby is just upset because a global flood is not one of them. However, Juby is correct in pointing out that the eggs belong to Oviraptor thus the name is misleading. Nevertheless, what Juby does not tell you is that the people who corrected the old ideas of Oviraptor being an egg thief were actual scientists, not creationists. I do not understand why Juby thought this was relevant to point out.

The evolutionary assumptions of these finds is still evident, even in the wikipedia article on Oviraptor citipati.  This was an Oviraptor found buried alive sitting on its nest:
“This brooding posture is found today only in birds and supports a behavioral link between birds and theropod dinosaurs.”

Wait a minute – was it in a brooding posture, or did it have its arms wrapped around the nest to protect it from the flood that buried it alive while sitting on top of the nest?  Even the evolutionists agree it was a flash flood that buried it alive while sitting on its nest.  But the evolutionary beliefs (that of dinosaurs evolving into birds) are assumed, whereas the catastrophic interpretation (which is more logical) is ignored.

 

Juby seems to be missing the point of the fossil cited, he even admits that the Oviraptor was sitting on its eggs, something birds do and other reptiles do not. Whether this fossil was formed by a flash flood, sandstorm, or global flood it appears the Oviraptor was in the brooding posture.

Furthermore, Juby also fails to understand the vast amount of evidence that links therapod dinosaurs, such as Oviraptor to birds (e.g. feathers, hollow bones, skeletal anatomy, etc…). In addition, Juby believes that a wall of water (which would be produced in a worldwide flood) burying this Oviraptor in the brooding posture is logical. Does he not understand the physics that goes into a flood (small or large scale)?

Next, we move onto Juby’s biggest blunder of this whole crash course:

Here is another example of an Oviraptor “nest” found in Montana.  The eggs are again laid in pairs, but apparently this Oviraptor laid its eggs on the run!

This is, again, the more logical explanation – but in the original article on this “nest,” the authors claim (for some inexplicable reason) that the Oviraptor re-oriented the eggs in this position.  You see, an evolutionary perspective is programmed into you in school and via the media.  I’ve been a hard-core, young-earth creationist for almost 20 years now, and I still find myself having to de-program myself of my evolutionary assumptions that I was taught when I was younger!  Evolutionary assumptions that were colouring my world-view, and I did not even know about them.

 

First off, Oviraptors are found in Mongolia, not North America. Second, there is a reason why Juby does not cite the article in this lesson, and that reason is that the eggs seen above come from a Troodon, not an Oviraptor. Juby’s inability to honestly portray the evidence speaks volumes about his character. Potholer54 has a wonderful video about this specific claim from Juby.

Juby, it does not seem like you are deprogramming yourself, it seems like you are willfully deceiving yourself, and others, into believing in creationism. This blatant misrepresentation can only be interpreted as a lie and I do remember how Juby felt about being lied too.

Our last nest we’ll look at today comes from a Hadrosaur.  Again, the Hadrosaur apparently stood in the middle and laid its eggs in a circle.  However, notice how the eggs in this nest were laid – each higher than the last?  Apparently between the time the first egg was laid and the last one was laid, there was mud rising around the ankles of the dinosaur!  In fact, the highest egg was actually a polystrate egg – the rock layer cut right through the middle of this egg.

Again, clear evidence of eggs being laid in catastrophic conditions, when apparently the dinosaur had no other choice.

 

This is not clear evidence of a catastrophe, at least not one that Juby thinks happened. Everything that Juby attributes to the fossil I can agree with, it does appear that the Hadrosaur laid its eggs in a muddy area, leading to the polystrate egg (remember polystrate fossils are not what creationists wish they were). However, making the leap from this fossil to global flood does not follow from the evidence.

Floods are seen in the geologic column and they leave evidence behind. The fossil evidence Juby points out in this lesson is not the type of evidence we would see for a flood. Again, if Juby wants to make a case for a global flood, he needs to start with the sedimentation and point to a layer in the geological column that, not only is created by a flood, but stretches around the world and dates to the same time. Without evidence like this, one cannot claim evidence of a global flood.

Coming up in the next lesson:
Nothing changes….

Disproving Genesis

Frenger
Frenger
Mon May 20, 2013 6:30 pm by Frenger

Recently, Dr Joseph Maestropaolo, a Calfornian Creationist, pledged $10,000 of his own money to anyone who could disprove the literal word of Genesis. While the challenge is rigged with more booby traps than a Marks and Spencer’s lingerie section, I thought it would still be fun to disprove Genesis, chapter by chapter over a series of blog posts. So, here we go.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

For the time being, I’m going to gloss over the concept of god. Personally, I don’t see any evidence for such a being, but this isn’t the point of the series.  The point is that Genesis is in direct conflict with what we know about the Universe and our species from evidence.

So, in the beginning, there was the heaven and the earth. As Heaven isn’t defined here I’m at a loss of what to do with it, so I’ll simply ignore it until a more concrete description is given. The Earth however, is something we can work with.

The Earth, is 4.5 – 4.6 billion years old. We know this by dating meteorites surrounding the earth using Lead isotope systematics. As Claude et al show;

The PbPb ages of the most radiogenic compositions measured in Allende refractory inclusions range from 4.568 to 4.565 Ga, the PbPb ages of secondary phosphates in equilibrated ordinary chondrites vary from 4.563 to 4.504 Ga, and basaltic achondrites show ages between 4.558 and 4.53 Ga.

Sauce

Of course, the Earth will be slightly younger than primitive meteorites, about 0.1ga. This is due to a series of processes that will need to take place before Earth can be recognised as Earth, such as core formation, end of accretion, atmospheric extraction etc.

So, I could stop here, as in the beginning god made meteorites, waited a bit, then through a series of processes made Earth. However, I want to show that our Universe is MUCH MUCH older than our planet.

The recent WMAP (Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe) mission from NASA produced results showing the Universe to be around 13.77 Billion years old (sauce). This is likely the most precise measurement to date, although other systems of measurements have produced similar results.

By measuring the Cosmic Microwave Background, Knox et al were able to show the age of the Universe to be 14.0 ± 0.5 Gyr.

If Ωtot = 1 and structure formed from adiabatic initial conditions, then the age of the universe, as constrained by measurements of the cosmic microwave background (CMB), is t0 = 14.0 ± 0.5 Gyr. The uncertainty is surprisingly small given that CMB data alone do not significantly constrain either h or ΩΛ

Sauce.

So, the Earth is 4.5-4.6 Billion years old along with the rest of our solar system. However, the Universe is, according to new estimates 13.77Gyr. Unless it can be shown that Earth was static and the Universe was built around it, I would suggest that in the beginning, god did not make the Earth.

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters

That the Earth was without form and void, leaves me to believe it didn’t actually exist. But glossing over that, we’ll look at the next two points.

“Darkness was upon the face of the deep”. Well, according to the Nebular hypothesis, the Earth formed out of the solar nebula left over from the formation of the Sun. This would suggest then, that the Sun was producing light as a bi-product of nuclear fusion during Earth’s accretion, and therefore darkness would not be upon the face of the deep.

“And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters”. Again, I’m not here to look at the claims made concerning spirits, gods, afterlife’s or anything super natural, so I shall miss out the spirit of god in this instance, however, that he moved upon the face of the waters, is up for scrutiny.

According to Genesis, we are still in day one, a day in Earth terms being 24 hours, or the amount of time it takes for Earth to spin 360o on its own axis. However, according to Mojzsis et al, evidence of water has only been found as far back as 4,300 myr

Here we report in situ U–Pb and oxygen isotope results for such zircons that place constraints on the age and composition of their sources and may therefore provide information about the nature of the Earth’s early surface. We find that 3,910–4,280 Myr old zircons have oxygen isotope ( 18O) values ranging from 5.4 0.6 to 15.0 0.4 . On the basis of these results, we postulate that the 4,300-Myr-old zircons formed from magmas containing a significant component of re-worked continental crust that formed in the presence of water near the Earth’s surface.

Sauce

So, with this being the earliest evidence of water on the surface, we are left with around 200 myr where the planet was too hot for water to form as liquid. Therefore, would not have been present on the same day as the Earth’s formation. It will be said that a day is relative, and that days were longer back when the Earth was formed some 6,000 years ago, however, the Bible makes no reference to this, and so we take it literally as is asked by your man Joseph.

Part of me wants to carry on, although I’ve already hit nearly 1000 words debunking only 2 sentences. Therefore, I’ll save the “let there be light” for next time, as I want to go into that in some depth.

Comments and addition always welcome.

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